Last chance to see: The Urban Explorers at Brighton Photo Biennial

By Serena Doherty | 29 October 2012
a photo of a man walking down a dark tunnel with a light streaming from behind his head.
© Dan Salibury 2012

Brighton Biennial 2012: Urban Explorers, Room, west of Brighton Bandstand, Mon - Sat 10am - 5pm Sundays 11am - 5pm until November 2012.

A bright blue shipping container is currently perched on Brighton beach. Inside, the dark interior flickers to hundreds of images taken by the Urban Explorers, the self-styled photographers and adventurers who gain access to unseen and off-limits city spaces.

Risking arrest, the Urban Explorers also gamble with life and limb during some of their more adventurous shoots, which flick by here to a suitable soundtrack of low playing techno music.

British locales include Battersea Power Station and the newly built “Shard” in London that one of the creators, Bradley Garrett, scaled. He is one of the few photographers exhibiting here to reveal his identity.

“We have a right to explore public infrastructure,” he says. “Anything funded or maintained by tax money belongs to us and we should be able to use it as we like as long as we don’t permanently damage it or cause harm to the citizen body.”

Extending that policy to corporate private property, Garrett also admits to “infiltrating any place that noticeably (read permanently) affects us as a community or society…”

Other resolutely anonymous photographers in the exhibition put their personal safety on the line to achieve some insightful and dangerous shots, their faces hidden behind scarves or obscured by backlighting. As the minutes go by the slide show becomes a veritable gallery of nighttime cityscapes, tunnels - and obscured faces.

Voice is given to these mystery photographers whose words, spliced between the images, reveal why they feel the need to question how structures are used and what drives them to capture hidden urban sites.

Viewers arriving and leaving at different times see different parts of this looping mix of images and motives, making each experience and examination different.

Emerging from this world of urban landscapes, high rise vistas and underground tunnels into the grey light of Brighton seafront is part of the experience, and another example of a photo Biennial exploring new ways of engagement.

More photos:

a photo of a young guy in a hoody and face mask standing in a tunnel
© Dan Salibury 2012
a photo of a cityscape at night seen from a tall building
© Dan Salibury 2012
a photo of an underground brick tunnel and stairway
© Dan Salibury 2012
a photo of two men with tripods in a tunnel
© Dan Salibury 2012
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